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Prayer in the Life of a Priest

Inspiration to pray more fervently

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Father David BonnarI think we all, as priests, at one time or another have been asked to get our hands dirty or do some heavy lifting only to respond tongue-in-cheek by saying, “Did you know that these hands are made for chalices and not callouses?”

Actually, though, we do get our hands dirty. Ministry can be messy at times. What is more, there is much in the way of heavy lifting as every day we are called to lift the prayers of the faithful to God. Many prayers of adoration, contrition, supplication and thanksgiving are often placed in our hands and lifted to God in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and our personal prayer. What a privilege it is for us as priests to pray with and for our faithful.

Of course, our prayerful petitions must always be rooted in a strong personal prayer life. We need to aspire every day to be men of devout prayer who intimately know the Shepherd and heed his voice.

The rigorous demands of ministry, however, can sometimes derail our best plans to pray. Besides, the experience of being wounded and hurt can paralyze us to the point that we find it difficult to pray. Wherever and whenever we pray, we always face the reality of distraction and dryness. It is incumbent on us every day to be committed men of prayer who overcome distraction and persevere through those arid times.

To that end, we are happy to provide a special issue with the theme “Prayer in the Life of a Priest.” Each article is designed to inspire priests to pray more fervently. It is our hope and prayer, excuse the pun, that this issue will boost your prayer life and enhance your ministry as a priest of Jesus Christ.

In this issue, Father Dennis Gill writes about how we as priests pray the greatest of prayers, the holy Mass. Deacon James Keating addresses the seasons of prayer and offers some compelling suggestions on remaining committed to Jesus in prayer given the changes and challenges of our lives. Father Ron Witherup tackles the whole idea of praying with the richness of the Tradition of our faith by looking at four significant Church documents and the quest for holiness.

Meanwhile, Dr. Susan Muto, in her article, reflects on how we as priests can become a “prayerful presence for the People of God.” Dr. Muto references four saints who offer valuable insight on how we might become a “prayerful presence,” by praying always, and all ways, practicing the prayer of presence, moving from sanctity to service and growing with intimacy with the Trinity.

The In Focus in this special issue is authored by Father Timothy Gallagher who very honestly delves into “The Heart of a Priest’s Prayer.” While Father Gallagher acknowledges the struggles of prayer, he notes the importance of devoted daily time in the form of a Holy Hour to encounter Jesus. With humble candor, Father Gallagher shares some aspects of his time with God in these sacred moments.

This issue, with its focus on prayer, promises to revitalize your prayer life by helping you become more keenly aware not only of how we pray as priests but how we can pray more deeply. But we can only do so much on our end with these articles. Much of the success of this effort is in your hands and hearts. It also is a matter of God’s grace. I invite you to savor these articles. Talk about them with a brother priest. Make prayer the next topic of your support group meeting. Suggest it as a theme for a diocesan convocation. Take one of these themes and use it in your next meeting with your spiritual director.

From one brother to another, I encourage you to use this issue to examine and strengthen your prayer life. I leave you with the words of a seminary spiritual director: “There can be no mature ministry without mature prayer.”

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, email us at Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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